Tag Archives: Tikorangi

The Ballad of Roading Steve

Another post about living in the Tikorangi Gaslands. Not plants and gardening but the other omnipresent aspect to our lives here.

 Three years ago, we were trying so hard to preserve something of old Tikorangi midst the ravages of petrochemical development. That included keeping the rural character of the roads and the immediate environment. Ha! We failed dismally, as witness these roadworks just past our place.

They are a reminder that staff at New Plymouth District Council were mostly just humouring us when they appeared to listen. Except for one memorable staffer who did not make any attempt to humour us. No sirree, he made it clear from the start that he was the boss-man and he did not need to be polite or listen to residents. What could we possibly know? He is not there anymore. He moved on some time ago. Or maybe he was shovelled out? The politer staff would nod and give a credible performance of listening attentively. But, as subsequent actions and policies show, they were not going to deviate from their chosen path.

And so this road *improvement* has gone ahead, no doubt at considerable expense. In vain did we plead for rural amenity to be preserved while meeting the roading needs of petrochemical development. Make no mistake about it. The whole purpose of this super-duper rural road is to service the petrochemical industry, not the locals. Sure, some locals will see a wider, faster, heavily cambered road as “progress”. They don’t care about being able to stand on the side of the road and have a chat to a passing neighbour. I bet they don’t get out of their cars long enough to ever want to walk along the road verge. Presumably they don’t have any children who might, in the past, have biked to school. I am also guessing that they have never lost any dogs to speeding traffic. All they want to do is to get in their vehicles and plant foot, to get to their destination as fast as possible. That is how they see the modern world of progress.

We are living with a soundtrack of constant machinery from 7am until dark, Monday to Saturday. It has been interesting to me for several reasons. It is like a little monument to our failure in trying to make any changes for the better. But I am not feeling blue. It reminds me how successfully I have drawn in my world, circled the wagons, to exclude what goes on beyond our boundaries. And I have coped with the constant noise with equanimity. Some level of mindfulness or just simple inner tranquillity can indeed create a protective cloak.

Roading Steve, the architect of these roadworks, has also gone from Council now. Moved on. But he left a legacy. The road WILL be wider, stronger and faster for this short stretch.

No matter that since those plans were being mooted, the speed limit here has been dropped by the very same council to 80km/h, slowing the traffic overall to a safer speed.

No matter that the petrochemical company has instigated a voluntary speed limit on its heavy transport of 60km/h on that very stretch of road.

No matter that the bottom has fallen out of the Taranaki oil and gas industry and it may never recover to the levels seen when Roading Steve thought this road *upgrade* looked like a good idea. Let us not forget that oil and gas is a twilight industry and public attitudes are changing to be less sympathetic.

Where the new road has to narrow to meet the old, down the dip and on an intersection

No matter that this bright, shiny, new bit of road will encourage traffic to speed up coming down the hill until it terminates on a relatively risky intersection and narrows to the old width to climb the hill outside our place.

The work must go on.  For such is the inexorable process of local body government. Once initiated, a project cannot, apparently, be stopped. And progress can be measured by wider, stronger roads to accommodate faster vehicles. For which we all pay through local and national taxes. It is why I have circled the wagons.

Our side of the hill remains untouched. For now.

Cumulative Effects (of Petrochemical Development)

Side by side newsletters

Side by side newsletters

Two newsletters arrived last week followed up by two circulars to Tikorangi residents – well, one letter and one memo. The difference in style between *our* two petrochem companies operating here is pretty stark.

And side by side letters both appeared in the letter box yesterday

And side by side letters both appeared in the letter box yesterday

But it is the list of current activities that is scary.

Greymouth Petroleum:

1) Construction of Kowhai C site. That is the site that this community spoke up and said we did not want so our District Council helped Greymouth Petroleum by consenting it in secrecy and not addressing community concerns, including Otaraua Hapu whose rohe that site is in. Greymouth did not even acknowledge this community’s concern.

Greymouth's yellow tanker on their new stretch of Otaraoa Road

Greymouth’s yellow tanker on their new stretch of Otaraoa Road

2) Roadworks related to Kowhai C site.
3) Pipeline construction.
4) Drilling rig is coming in to Kowhai C site starting October 26 (‘approximately’ 75 truck movements).
5) A workover is coming to Kowhai A site. This presumably involves a workover rig.
6) Roadworks to the Turangi A, B and C sites.
7) Work is apparently going to start on Ohanga B site shortly. Epiha A is already constructed and presumably ready to drill. Urenui A is apparently planned. Turangi C is not yet constructed. There is talk of extensions to Kowhai A site.

Another day, more traffic here

Another day, more traffic here

Then if we add in Todd Energy’s activities:

8) Fracking and flaring on Mangahewa C site
9) Site works on Mangahewa E site
10) Still more construction of infrastructure facilities on Mangahewa C starting in November.
11) Mangahewa Expansion Train 2 (MET2) construction continuing at McKee.
12) Pipeline construction (includes using a helicopter).
13) Roadworks on Otaraoa Road to improve access to McKee.

This is what a rig move looks like, but multiply by between 75 and 95 loads

This is what a rig move looks like, but multiply by between 75 and 95 loads – though not all are on trucks this large

14) The rig was moved out of Mangahewa C site over the past few weeks. This involved many heavy loads and a small matter of an oil spill last week (right along our two road boundaries here, in fact).

Bit of an oops with a spill on the road outside our place

Bit of an oops with a spill on the road outside our place

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Permanent tanker movements continue from most sites and from McKee. All of these activities generate noise and heavy traffic.

All year we have been trying to convince New Plymouth District Council that they must address cumulative effects when a range of petrochemical activities are taking place at the same time. But nothing has happened and in the meantime the activity ramps up further.

Tikorangi is apparently the most heavily explored and developed petrochemical area in the country. It used to be a highly desirable and charming little rural community. Now it is reeling. And still more is planned.

Is Tikorangi to be the blueprint for other areas, given this government’s belief that salvation lies in oil and gas development?

Just another load for the MET 3 construction at McKee passing our place

Just another load for the MET 3 construction at McKee passing our place

Tikorangi News

Tikorangi-Butter-paper

Welcome to the first edition of Tikorangi News which your council has undertaken to write in response to complaints from a few local residents that they don’t know what is happening in their district. At New Lympouth District Council, we take our duty to consult local residents very seriously and we hope this newsletter will fill the gap. We would like to thank the guardians of the old Tikorangi Dairy Factory for making their butter wrapper available to use as letterhead, reminding us of the semi rural nature of the area. regular_smile

036• We at Council are deeply aware that traffic is a major issue for many Tikorangi residents but we have AWESOME news. We have brokered an arrangement between companies, their subcontractors and Tikorangi School. Starting next week, the trucks will be calling in to the school where the students will be painting happy faces on all the vehicles. We are confident that smiley faces will bring a smile to all Tikorangi residents as the trucks pass by. Drivers have also been instructed to give a cheery wave as they pass. regular_smile regular_smile regular_smile

• Graymooth Petroleum have told us that they are very, very sorry that their drilling rig on Kowhai B allegedly broke their consented noise levels on one occasion and they promise they are doing all they can to remedy this situation. We are confident that this is the case because they even returned our wet bus ticket to us. The good news is that they have nearly finished this well and may shortly be moving their rig to the Stratford area which means it will no longer be our concern. sad_smile

???????????????????????????????• Tikorangi residents will be as thrilled as Council is that the Len Lye Centre has been given the green light. It is only because of Toad Energy’s wonderful generosity that this project is going ahead. In recognition of the special relationship between Toad and Tikorangi, residents will be guaranteed free entry to the new centre when it opens for a period of five years. regular_smile
???????????????????????????????• A few residents have suggested that Greymooth are not abiding by their declared number of light vehicles on their Kowhai B site. We are pleased to report that Greymooth have assured us that they are abiding by all conditions of their consent. We suggest that busybody residents who have counted up to 17 light vehicles parked in the two carparks at the same time should perhaps find something better to do with their time and get a real job. There are only six light vehicles a day travelling to the Kowhai B site. Similarly, Toad have assured us that they too are keeping strictly to the terms of their consent and there are only 8 light vehicles and 3 heavy vehicles driving on to their Mangahewa C site in any 24 hour period during drilling activities.

???????????????????????????????regular_smileThe next edition of the Tikorangi News will be called the Todger News after your council successfully negotiated a sponsorship deal with both Toad Energy and Greymooth Petroleum. This is good news because it means the special needs of Tikorangi will no longer be a drain on the other ratepayers of the district.

• Residents are reminded that they are best to contact the company concerned in the first instance when they have worries. This cuts out the middle man and companies can let us know what queries they have logged. We recently requested the logs from both Toad and Greymooth and were thrilled at the positive entries.
“Thanks so much for our awesome new road. Now we can speed down it at 120km an hour” said one Tikorangi East Road resident (Good news, Otaraoa Rd people. Roadworks will be starting in your area soon!)
“ Thanks guys for the generous gift of a hamper. My wife and I loved it. Now we no longer notice the sound of your generators and drilling rig at night.”
“Don’t take any notice of the carpers and moaners, guys. These few greenies are probably the same types who spend their time buggerising around on Facebook and besmirching the reputation of NLDC. We think you’re great. I will be back at work next week, by the way.”
It was wonderful to read so many positive comments and to know that the companies are taking such good care of you all. ???????????????????????????????

• On a more serious note, Council is reducing the affected party zone for new sites to those people whose residences are 20 metres or less from the site. This brings it in line with the notional boundary ruling in the District Scheme where noise levels are monitored at a distance of 20 metres from the nearest neighbouring houses. Effects from this change should be less than minor and no parties will be adversely affected. The rural character of the area will not be changed by this minor amendment.

• Big thanks go to both companies and their active programme of retro fitting double glazing in houses where the owners do not even have affected party status. This is a wonderfully generous move on their part and one which they are under no obligation to make. regular_smile

???????????????????????????????cry_smile We are acting on concerns raised by an elected councillor at a recent Council meeting regarding malcontents in Tikorangi “besmirching the reputation of the Council”. He suggested a public education programme might be required. Council categorically rejects any insinuation that this may be a case of shooting the messenger and is investigating models of re-education programmes pioneered in the Soviet gulags, the Chinese re-education through labour programmes and the Vietnamese voluntary relocation strategies of the 1970s. We are confident that any troublemaking dissidents in Tikorangi can and will be dealt with promptly and efficiently and will no longer be able to embarrass your council and to sully the reputation of Taranaki.

• Finally, in response to community concerns, we at New Lympouth District Council can assure Tikorangi residents that as far as disruption as a result of the petrochemical industry is concerned, we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to find where the buck stops. We think it may be with central government but we are mindful it may even be international – maybe WTO or OPEC.

• Kia kaha Tikorangi! And remember, you drive a car so you can’t complain. regular_smile

Tikorangi-Butter-footer

Saving Tikorangi – what could Councils do?

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Following on from my post on Tikorangi Lost – how a little community is being sacrificed to the petrochemical dollar, I suggest the following:

1) Stop hiding behind legislation. If the ability for Councils to take a lead role in planning and managing development is not possible under existing legislation and regulation, then admit publicly that is the case and immediately approach central Government seeking change. It appears that the current regulations may be inadequate to meet such major development.
2) Set a moratorium on new consents and major variations to existing consents while an overall plan is put in place and pending the final report from the Commissioner for the Environment.
3) Develop a plan for the district involving local residents as well as the companies.
4) Review the extent to which the use of non-notified consents and the virtual elimination of “affected party status” has led to a culture of exclusion bordering on secrecy between companies and councils whereby local residents only find out what is happening after the consents have been approved.
5) Appoint a residents’ advocate.
6) Give residents a voice, the chance to give a report card, victim impact report even, on what the personal impact has been. Stop ignoring them.
7) Initiate a study into levels of stress and anxiety in local residents as a result of the rapid petrochemical development.
8) Create a single point of contact at Council.
9) Impose a 70km speed limit throughout areas of Tikorangi affected by petrochem dev – ie from Princess St through Ngatimaru Rd to Kowhai A site, Inland North Rd as far as Otaraoa Rd, Otaraoa Rd as far inland as Mckee, Tikorangi Rd from the intersection with Otaraoa Rd to Mangahewa E site.
10) Cease issuing permits for well sites in excess of what a site is suitable for and in excess of what companies have actually planned. This is effectively an open mandate for them to do whatever they want in the future.
11) Do not allow existing use as a reason for granting major variations, as was done with the increase in site area for Mangahewa C, setting a dangerous precedent. If a company applies for use which is beyond the capacity of their site at the time, that should be the company’s problem and not a reason to allow them to hugely expand the site.
12) Conduct independent traffic counts including specific attention to heavy loads and hazardous loads.
13) Define community consultation. A letter box drop is not community consultation. Nor is dropping a large bundle of papers on a local resident or organisation without explanation or interpretation. Indeed, a meeting where a company presents its plans to local residents is not community consultation either. It is merely communicating decisions already made and is therefore community liaison.
14) As the intensity of development escalates, the chances of a major incident greatly increase. This could be an on-site incident such as a well blow out or major malfunction, or a traffic accident involving heavy vehicles, often carrying dangerous goods. Many locals would like advice as to emergency actions in the event of such an incident. Put simply, which way should we drive to get out?
15) Actively discourage Greymouth’s pepper-potting of well sites. Do not permit them to establish separate well sites a few hundred metres apart. Todd have chosen to establish fewer sites and directionally drill. While the impact on neighbours is therefore much higher, the total number of people adversely affected is much lower. Allowing companies to pepper pot sites impacts negatively on many more people and on the environment.
16) Take best practice from one company as the required benchmark for other companies. Todd Energy have made major improvements to flaring, reducing the length of time flaring took place on their third well on Mangahewa C site, to under 30 hours, if my memory is correct. This is a massive change from the months of flaring previously and the improvement for locals was major as a result. If Todd can do it, so can other companies. Similarly, Todd maintains extremely high standards of community liaison and acts on complaints. This does not appear to be true with all companies.
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17) Acknowledge that in the countryside, the norm is silence at night. Setting allowable limits for industrial noise, pays no heed to the severe degradation of quality of life when low grade industrial noise permeates the environment 24 hours a day. The same goes for light. The norm in the country is darkness at night. The well sites are very brightly lit.
18) Look at the whole picture, not just the well sites. The construction is a major intrusion and the infrastructure seems to have bypassed Councils’ notice altogether – the pipelines, the roadworks, the power supplies, the use of helicopters, the seismic surveys. There is layer upon layer.
19) Stop consents being merely a checklist of boxes to be ticked. Look at applications in the context of what is already happening, what the cumulative effect will be and how it all fits with a development plan drawn up for the area.
20) Undertake regular Assessments of Environmental Effects and formal reviews of resource consents. Recognise that when companies pursue a very active programme of encouraging residents to complain direct to them, that it means they can fudge the extent of resident complaints. Indeed, it appears to have been so effective that it can entirely escape New Plymouth District Council’s attention. Council then acts on the unverified assumption that there are no significant problems.
21) Seek external verification of company reports on environmental effects. Do not rely solely on information supplied by the companies and “visual inspections”.
22) Change the way complaints are recorded at Council. Complaints from Tikorangi residents about noise, light, traffic, the state of the roads, littering and assorted other presenting issues are more likely to be about petrochemical development than about anything else, yet they appear to be recorded under a host of other categories.
23) Monitor closely what is happening to property values and the length of time it takes to sell property in Tikorangi. These are another indicator of the health and desirability of the area.
24) Require that sites have screen planting put in as part of the initial site preparation. These industrial sites are an eyesore in a rural area and detract hugely from the visual quality of the environment. Within two or three years of initial site works, that planting should screen sites from view. Take the ability to screen from view into account when approving a site. In other words, hide them. Screen planting may also absorb some of the noise.
25) Recognise that the precedent set by allowing Greymouth Petroleum to position an 8 well site (Kowhai B) immediately on the boundary of the Foreman farm and about 300 metres from Graham Foreman’s home, without his agreement, has set a new bar for permissable intrusion. Many locals now fear that they could suddenly find a rig on their boundary, too.
26) Write a code of conduct for petrochemical companies, even if it has to be voluntary.
27) Independently verify claims made by companies and recognise that the consultants employed by those companies work for them. They are not independent consultants and their advice needs to be considered in that context.

In short, do some actual planning for once.

These, these types of measures are what I have been seeking for over fifteen years since I first sat in Mayor Claire Stewart’s office with the then so-called “planners”. It appears that nothing has ever been done. Councils have abdicated any role or responsibility for planning and leave it to the petrochemical companies.

Tikorangi and other similar areas are paying an unacceptably high price for Councils’ willingness to pander to the powerful petrochemical companies and the petrochemical dollar. The problems are only going to escalate with rampant and uncontrolled growth of the industry.

Genuine resident Tikorangi goat. Draw your own conclusions

Genuine resident Tikorangi goat. Draw your own conclusions

Tikorangi Lost – how a little community is being sacrificed to the petrochemical dollar

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Ours is a typical rural community in North Taranaki, about 5km off the state highway. We named our garden for the area. There are two main(ish) roads here and about five side roads. The country store has long since closed but we have a pretty little church which is still in use.
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We have a country school which has been here for 146 years. It currently has a roll of about 140 though that has been inflated by children from the town of Waitara 6km away.
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We have tennis courts, a rugby club and a well kept community hall. The original dairy factory is still here. It has Historic Places A classification and is a home these days.
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We even have an active playcentre in an historic building (the original school). It too has Historic Places A classification.

Typical farmland. Shame this is the site for Mangahewa E

Typical farmland. Shame this is the site for Mangahewa E

Many of the original settler families are still living here. Jury, Sarten, Soffe, Foreman and Lye are common surnames. Many trace their antecedents to the first boats of immigrants that landed in New Plymouth in 1841. This is an area even richer in Maori history and families like the O’Carrolls and the Baileys can trace their whakapapa back much further. The area is peppered with waahi tapu (sacred sites).

It is predominantly farming, dairy at that, only one modern industrial farm. The rest are generally in family hands often down the generations. There is an increasing number of small holdings as people build their “forever homes” on their piece of land in the country because we are only 20 minutes out of New Plymouth.
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I doubt that too many people ride horses on this road any longer. This is one of our main(ish) roads with an astonishing volume of traffic, much of it heavy transport, and much of it travelling fast because it is a 100km/h speed limit.
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Then there is this.
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And this. Two rigs, two sites.
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And lots and lots of these.
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Lots and lots and lots in fact.
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We have these sorts of installations.
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At times we get more of these than we would like. Darned noisy machines.
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The first set of power pylons marching across the landscape date back to the Motunui synthetic petrol plant in the early eighties. But now we have more. This latest lot are not for the public good. It is the designated power supply for Todd Energy marching across our rural landscape. The ground below is criss crossed with gas pipelines.
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Our night skies are no longer the velvety darkness which we used to take for granted in the country. Some of us no longer enjoy silence – at any time.

Our roads are being upgraded, even our little side roads, but this is solely to enable them to carry huge loads along what used to be little country lanes.

And there is plenty more to come. Currently, I think we are enduring the drilling of wells 8 and 9 (or thereabouts). It appears that our local councils, without consultation, without an overall plan, dealing with applications on a case by case, non notified basis, have already consented or are in the process of consenting up to FIFTY FIVE, maybe even FIFTY NINE wells in our little Tikorangi. That is an area shaped a little like a cross and measuring about 6km at its longest point and 3km at its widest point, bounded by Epiha A site, Kowhai B site, Mangahewa A site and Mangahewa E site. (A list of wells approved, applied for or announced publicly is at the end of this post. These are only the ones I have found. I do not know if it is complete).(Goodness. I first wrote that two years ago. We now fourteen well sites approved for in excess of 100 wells. Clearly we did not realise in 2013 just how much worse it could get.)
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You too can find you now have a major well site on your boundary with no consultation or compensation as this person did. It is no longer a joke. Yes, that is the next door farmer’s boundary fence.
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This is Mangahewa C site. In late December, the company was given an extension to their resource consent to more than double the size of the site, apparently without the Council planner making a site visit. She was, it seems, too busy in the lead up to Christmas to get out. She might have been very surprised by what she found, had she made the time.

Read the council planners’ reports and you find references to the effects of this development being “less than minor” and “not altering the rural character of the area”. Words fail me on these bizarre claims except to say that maybe, from one’s office desk in New Plymouth, they don’t look quite like they do on the ground in Tikorangi.

And few of us complain because “you drive a car don’t you?” is the common, sneering response from the ignorant and the ill informed.

Consented and proposed wells in Tikorangi.
Epiha A, Otaraoa Road: 8
Kowhai A, Ngatimaru Road: 6
Kowhai B, Ngatimaru Road: 8
Kowhai C, Otaraoa Road: 8
Mangahewa A, Otaraoa Road – waiting to have confirmed. Best guess at this stage, maybe another 8.
Mangahewa C, Tikorangi Road: 8 consented, number 4 being drilled now but Todd announced at a meeting with locals in the Tikorangi Hall last December that they WILL be drilling a further 9 wells on this site in the next five years. This makes a total of 13.
Mangahewa E, Tikorangi Road: 8
Depending on the number of wells consented for Mangahewa A, that makes a total of 59 (with a small margin of error).

What can Tikorangi residents and landowners do?
Contact the New Plymouth District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council and ask for a moratorium to be placed on any further petrochemical development consents or variations to consents until:
a) A development plan is in place for Tikorangi and
b) The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment releases her final report.

Contacts at New Plymouth District Council could include: Frank Versteeg, versteegf@npdc.govt.nz, Barbara McKerrow mckerrowb@npdc.govt.nz, and the mayor harry.duynhoven@npdc.govt.nz. It will filter down to the lower echelons from there, but I have no idea if the reverse is true.

Contacts at Taranaki Regional Council: consents@trc.govt.nz, david.macleod@trc.govt.nz, basil.chamberlain@trc.govt.nz, fred.mclay@trc.govt.nz.

My follow up post is Saving Tikorangi – what our District and Regional Councils could do.

Update: Monday 11 February
1) This post and its accompanying post “Saving Taranaki” clocked up over 1000 views in 6 days. I have added two extra pointers, 26 and 27, to Saving Tikorangi.
2) Taranaki Regional Council have contacted me to say that none of this has anything at all to do with them. It is all New Plymouth District Council’s problem. How convenient.
3) I am still waiting to discover how many wells have been approved for Mangahewa A site. NPDC appear to be having difficulty finding the records even though this is a large and active site. I have suggested that if they have misfiled or lost the records, no doubt the licensee, Todd Energy, could supply them with a copy.
4) The applications for Greymouth Petroleum’s Kowhai C site are at a considerably more advanced stage than neighbours or locals realised. This, of course, is pretty much the same site that an active local campaign kept Fletcher Challenge out of 15 years ago. Who knew that the same issue would reappear but under a different company name? The same reasons why locals did not want Fletcher Challenge on that site still apply. In fact with fracking, those reasons are probably even greater. It is wildly inappropriate and risky to site major industrial developments in the very heart of a rural community.
5) Reportedly, Todd Energy is describing Tikorangi as “semi rural”. No, Todd. We are rural here. Semi rural is that transition on the outskirts of towns and cities. This is a farming area. The fact there are also some lifestyle blocks does not make us semi rural. Most of us would rather not be semi rural when the other semi is industrial, thank you.

I sent NPDC a photo of Mangahewa A site signage to help them find it

I sent NPDC a photo of Mangahewa A site signage to help them find it

Tikorangi – the new Texas?

Next door - not quite the Tikorangi locals signed up for when they settled here

Next door - not quite the Tikorangi locals signed up for when they settled here

I can’t honestly say we are thrilled to learn of the deal between Todd Energy and Methanex which will see up to 25 wells drilled to frack the sub strata of the area where we live. Tikorangi isn’t very big and the first three wells are next door to us, with more scheduled to follow on the same site.

But we are pretty much alone in that. Industry thinks it is wonderful. Most Taranaki locals think it is wonderful because it brings jobs and money. The mayor thinks it’s wonderful. Somewhat disturbingly, the CEO of the regional council thinks it is wonderful (I say disturbingly because that is the body tasked with regulating and monitoring the industry’s activities and it is clear that they are very kindly disposed to the key players). The editor of the local paper thinks it is wonderful – which indicates that the paper will maintain its position of being the PR mouthpiece for the energy industry.

The bottom line is that the oil and gas industry may well be good for the national economy. It is certainly very good for the regional economy and means we have a superior class of cafe and restaurant in New Plymouth.

An increasingly common sight in our landscape

An increasingly common sight in our landscape

But there ain’t nuthin’ good for the locals who live by the sites. Nothing. At. All. They are ugly, industrial sites in the middle of rolling, green countryside. Drilling is noisy. The increase in traffic, especially heavy transport, has been major over the years. Flaring is abominable – flaring being the exercise of cleaning up the wells and testing the flows by igniting the gas. Considering there is nothing good for the environment in drilling either, I am somewhat surprised that the industry continues to get away with flaring. Don’t even try and tell me that anything I can do to reduce carbon emissions will help the planet – not when I live in an area where flaring takes place.

Over the years we have seen changes and some for the better. The first well drilled next door to us, maybe three years ago, was flared for many weeks on end. It was so bright, we could see the glow as we drove out of New Plymouth, 25km away. It lit our house all night. But worse was the noise – the constant, unabated, low grade roar which meant that living here was like living on the flight path to Heathrow, but this was 24/7. When you have lived for years in the relative silence and total darkness of the country, flaring has a huge impact on quality of life.

Flaring was greatly reduced for the second well on the same site and I am hopeful that the third currently being drilled (we can hear the rig grinding away in the quiet of the night and the morn), may see flaring reduced further.

Less high handed bullying from the companies is another change. We are lucky. We are dealing with Todd Energy who appear to be one of the better companies to deal with. I had thought the divisive bully-boy tactics of the petrochemical cowboys were in the past now (though only the relatively recent past) until I saw the media statements coming from another company on another site.

But we have also seen changes in the way the councils handle consents and the winding back on the definitions of affected parties. It is very difficult to convince councils that you are an affected party now and if you acquiesce and sign the agreement for one well, essentially you have signed away all rights to object in the future.

I have met with successive mayors and councils over about fifteen years, pleading with them to be more proactive in planning to mitigate the negative effects. They are terribly concerned and sympathetic and nothing happens. Planning, such as it is, remains completely reactive.

I have tried to get District Council to require, as part of the consents process, that sites be screened from public view by planting. I think they should only be visible from the air. High security industrial sites have no place in a rural landscape. Nothing has happened.

Today’s newspaper, where both District and Regional Council hail all the positive benefits of the economic boom gives me no confidence at all that any negative aspects will be even be acknowledged, let alone addressed.

I try not to look but in this case, it is both sides of the road. They should be screened from view.

I try not to look but in this case, it is both sides of the road. They should be screened from view.

So the gentle area where we live, a soft rural landscape with reasonably high density population and a solid core of very longstanding families, both Maori and Pakeha, will just roll with the changes as we have for the past decades. We will be the guinea pigs for fracking here. We will let you know if it does cause earthquakes or contaminate our water supplies. The ground below us is about to be fracked in every direction. We will adapt to the increase in traffic though we probably all hope that the ridiculous practice of laying gas pipelines down our roads and verges won’t happen again (how to cause maximum disruption to the largest number possible and completely without apology!) We will grit our teeth and only complain when the noise incidents get beyond the pale. And some of us will wait.

I think it likely that in a decade or two, all the viable reserves of oil and gas beneath us will be gone. The companies will pull out. The multitudes of small industrial sites I try not to look at will be reclaimed by long grass and then by other vegetation. Processing plants will be mothballed. The traffic will reduce and peace will return. I have to take the long view because the juggernaut that is the petrochemical industry rolls on unchecked in Taranaki in the short term.

The adjacent house is, I understand, still occupied by a very long term Tikorangi resident

The adjacent house is, I understand, still occupied by a very long term Tikorangi resident

Taming the Wilderness – workshop notes

Create space around individual plants to avoid an overgrown, unkempt look

Create space around individual plants to avoid an overgrown, unkempt look

TAMING THE WILDERNESS

Handout notes from the workshop taken here in our garden November 7, 2009 as part of the Taranaki Rhododendron and Garden Festival.

  1. If you are new to the garden, don’t charge straight in immediately and start dropping trees and shrubs. Ideally, give it about nine months to go through the seasons so you can see what is there before you do major felling and removal. In the meantime you can be clearing the lower grade plants – most plants that sucker, clump or seed down can be safely attacked.
  2. Track the path of the sun so you can see where your winter sun and summer shade positions are.
  3. Unless you know what you are doing, seek advice as to which trees are quality, long term trees worth preserving. Somebody at the botanic garden or public park, or an enthusiastic member of a group such as the International Dendrology Society will likely know more than a tree surgeon (whose skills often lie more in safely felling a tree and using chainsaws than in deciding which trees are of value).
  4. Overgrown gardens lose the detail and small treasures, but can give you a framework and maturity to work with. Don’t reduce it all to a blank canvas by clearing everything.
  5. Stand at each window in the house and plan views if possible. Also spend plenty of time looking from every angle in the garden to work out potential view shafts, sun and shade through the seasons.
  6. Make the most of maturity of plants. LIFT AND LIMB. Allow light through underneath and build up layers of garden. Many, if not most, young gardens are badly overplanted to get a quick effect. It is likely that you will need to thin out a number of these plants.
  7. Mature gardens are usually about shade conditions. LEARN TO GARDEN WITH SHADE. Don’t try and turn it all back to sun and a juvenile garden.
  8. CREATE SPACE AROUND PLANTS. The fresh appeal of young gardens is often because each plant stands alone in its own space. As gardens grow, that space gets swallowed up and the plants become entangled. Creating a sense of space again is good for the plant (less competition, more light and more air flow) and creates a more cared for look in the garden. Most gardens need to restrict the size of trees and shrubs.
  9. LEARN ABOUT PRUNING – especially the right times of the year to prune plants and the general rules of pruning. A good pruning saw is worth the expense, as are good loppers. Supervise chainsaw operators carefully – you can not glue branches on later.
  10. Widen paths. Remove anything spiky or prickly beside the path. Creating a sharp edge between a path and garden immediately makes a place look better cared for.
  11. As a general rule, woody trees and shrubs are best left well alone in the root area. Just a feed (preferably in spring) if the plant is looking hungry and pile on the mulch. Herbaceous or clumping plants prefer friable or fluffed soil and in a neglected garden may need to be lifted, divided and rejuvenated.
  12. If you are gardening on a slope or even on a hill, trim the branches and prunings and lay them around the contours of the slope and use them to start building up layers of humus. It is all part of the natural cycle. Bare earth is not a good look.
  13. Be a vigilant weeder from the start. It saves a great deal of time and effort later. Once an area is weeded, lay mulch to suppress fresh young seedlings. You will have many dormant weed seeds in your soil which will spring into life with a bit of light and cultivation.
  14. In our opinions, gardens need some logic to them and this usually means that detailed and tightly maintained areas of the garden are closest to the house, to living areas and entranceways. As you radiate out further, the theme becomes looser and more casual. Most people use outdoor living areas which are close to the house, rather than at the bottom of the garden.
  15. Vegetable gardens need full sun.
  16. As a general rule, water features are best in full sun.